Tharstern SQL

Describe your business

We’re an Adelaide-based printer that specialises in book production, both offset and digital.

What have you bought?

TharsternSQL management information system (MIS) software.

What does it do?

It tracks sales and production from estimating through purchasing, scheduling, despatch and invoicing. In the process, it accumulates detailed information that forms the basis of reports that analyse sales performance, stock movement, purchasing, production capacity and so on.

Why did you choose this product?

TharsternSQL ties administration, sales, production and logistics together as a cohesive whole and provides excellent feedback for management. As one of the most widely used systems in the UK and Europe, and with support on the ground in Australia, we felt confident in the long-term prospects for support, upgrade and improvement. We were particularly attracted by claims it integrates well with Agfa’s Apogee workflow system.

Did you consider any other products?

Yes, we looked at maybe a dozen different systems over a period of three years.

Is there anything you wish it had that it doesn’t?

TharsternSQL uses an operations-based estimating model –  each operation required to produce a job is defined in the background and has to be chosen by the estimator. To streamline estimating, it employs templates where you can define an entire typical job and components where you can define, for example, a four-colour A4 text section or a die-cut divider set, and pull it into an estimate. However, ideally we would have preferred a rules-based or specification-based model. This is where you enter the specifications and the system determines the required materials and operations based on background rules. We understand Tharstern UK is using this model for a new version to be released later this year.

How fast is it?

For estimating, it is not much faster than our previous system but it is certainly more accurate and less error-prone.

How reliable is it?

TharsternSQL is a huge, complex piece
of softwv are. Naturally we had some teething troubles. Now it is bedded-down, we find it to be very reliable. Most glitches turn out to be due to operator errors or inexperience.

How easy is it to use?

Despite its size and complexity, we have found it quite easy to use. Most functions are pretty intuitive and each person has become familiar with their own corner of the software.

Has it saved time and money?

It has mostly saved time in the administration side of the business.
We are also looking forward to savings related to the management reporting;
we can now identify what (or who) is profitable or unprofitable and concentrate on getting best value for our efforts.

Were there any difficulties surrounding the install?

Our system administrator described the install as “like replacing the building brick-by-brick while everyone continues to work inside it”. We had to move a lot of data from our old Novell network over to a newly configured Windows domain. The installation of the TharsternSQL software was painless enough, but then came the long job of importing data from a system so old and different that much of it had to be keyed in by hand. Each machine and operation had to be defined with costs, speeds, maximum and minimum sizes and so on. Then for three months we ran the old and new systems in parallel while we learned TharsternSQL and checked our results before going live.

How has the service been?

Excellent. Dylan Wheeler from Tharstern Australia spent a couple of weeks here training key people when the system was first installed.

Who is this product is right for?

TharsternSQL is suitable for any medium-sized printer with, say, 20-100 employees and a turnover of, say, $5m to $20m. It is scaleable, having a number of different modules that can be purchased separately. You can start with the basics and add modules later.

Would you buy another one?

Hopefully, in my lifetime, we won’t need to.

Supplier’s response

Hyde Park currently only use a portion of the functionality available. They opted from the outset to implement in stages, progressing only when one phase is fully utilised and they need further functionality – a well thought-out process that guarantees a controlled and well-managed implementation.
Peter mentions “rules-based estimating”. Unbeknownst to him, he is referring to “new estimating”, which will be shown at PrintEx11 in May. This functionality – the Holy Grail to streamline estimating – has been in development for a number of years. We see this as a great step forward for TharsternSQL.

Tresta Keegan, Tharstern ANZ

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